On Dec 21 at 2:02am PST the Earth is tilted away the furthest from the sun: Winter Solstice.
Starting this year I have decided to celebrate the Winter Solstice (or “Yule”) instead of Christmas. Christmas brings a lot of joy to people and that is wonderful. I love time with friends and family as much as the next person but it doesn’t have to be on any particular day of the year. And to me, the insane shopping and cooking craze surrounding Christmas is out of control (especially when it involves eating animals, with all the associated ethical and environmental issues). I also have no connection at all to a belief system and organized group that celebrates the Christmas holiday as the birth of a saviour. We each make our own decisions about what we believe in; different people will treasure different things.
I believe in the immense power of nature, the natural balances, and I have been lucky this year to sleep outside a lot. In my view, nothing beats the lessons learned from nature, from the seasons, from the animals. Nature teaches me to be the best person I can be, and especially my long hike this year has taught me confidence, compassion and how amazing people are (of all types and beliefs).
I read a bit about celebrating Winter Solstice in various cultures. This year I will be lucky to have a fireplace available and I will be burning a Yule log (to reignite the sun, release the dark, celebrate the light). I will be enjoying the warmth and reflecting on the time leading up to this shortest day of the year (apparently you can substitute with a Yule log cake!). Then I will be thinking about the rebirth of the earth, the return of sunlight, and what I hope the next season will bring. Some cultures encourage you to pick a word for the coming season, then create intentions and goals around it.
As Winter Solstice represents the external darkness, we also have to honour the light and darkness within us. Some people write down hurt or injustices they experienced, and then let them go (e.g. burn them). The flames will transform darkness into light. Some cultures create lanterns, decorate an outdoor tree to feed the animals and use oranges and stars as symbols for the return of the sun (e.g. window decorations). Homes are often decorated in natural ways with evergreen, holly and mistletoe. Others do crafts, plan to try something new this winter and practice gratitude.
In line with Yule traditions, I will be spending the night at candlelight and staying up to welcome the light back, celebrating that the days are getting longer again.
This year you can even watch the Winter Solstice live from Stonehenge online!
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season, whatever you are celebrating!